Author Topic: Board Development and SMD Soldering  (Read 8565 times)

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Offline thakidd

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Board Development and SMD Soldering
« on: November 06, 2010, 10:25:26 pm »
Hey EEVBlog! I have been attempting to complete an Electronics lab setup now for the past couple of months. I now own quite a few test equipment toys which I am thoroughly enjoying. My final step is to make my man cave completely self sufficient. The two final areas I must tackle are board development/creation and SMD soldering.

I made a decision a few months back that I would be crazy not to jump onto the SMD bandwagon as there are numerous positives to this 'upgrade' from dip etc. I have spent the past few months reading anything and everything from EEVBlog, HackADay, SparkFun, to a ton of other sites and Nuts & Volts magazine.

I would like to find out what method of production would be the easiest for a hobbyist. My needs are quite simple...I build circuits for myself; not for retail. I might come up with a design idea on a prototype board and want to make three board for my personal use (at the most). Most of the things I would like to build are small. Probably start out with some breakout boards for certain SMD components that I could plug into a breadboard to test and play with...then when something wonderful happens, build a complete board to house the entire circuit.

I have tried the whole laser jet transfer method (muratic acid & hydro prox). This did not work probably due to the laser printer (could only accomplish very large...nothing small) I have started to practice with old PC motherboards to get a handle on using a soldering iron for small SMD stuff. I am thinking about buying a hot air rework station to continue this effort. I just don't know where to go from here.

I don't mind spending the money...but I would prefer to spend it in the right place instead of spending a few hundred dollars on each of the possibilities out there to find the right one.

So what are your opinions? Hot Air, Hot Plate, Toaster Ovens, Enchant Tanks, Photo Resist, Light Boxes, etc.
What methods have you found easiest and reasonably priced to build a great looking board from something like Eagle and then what methods worked best to place SMD components on said board?

Links to the methods/products you refer to are greatly appreciated.

Thx in advance for your advice.
« Last Edit: November 06, 2010, 10:39:19 pm by thakidd »
 

Offline Bored@Work

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Re: Board Development and SMD Soldering
« Reply #1 on: November 06, 2010, 10:51:21 pm »
What methods have you found easiest and reasonably priced to build a great looking board from something like Eagle
To send the Gerbers out to a board house.
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Offline thakidd

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Re: Board Development and SMD Soldering
« Reply #2 on: November 06, 2010, 10:58:43 pm »
I may not have made myself clear on the OP. I know that the easiest method would be to send it off to a board manufacturer. This however would halt my creativity as I do not have any local board manufactures. I need a way to make my own boards within a few hours of time. I would consider the board manufacture the next step after I have successfully got a board working.

I.E. An AVR High Voltage Programmer: I needed one last weekend because I jacked a mega by accident with my JTAG ICE MKII. I had to wait until today to get that guy up and rolling. I had all of the parts here last weekend but no way to build the board for a week (due to SMD components). That brought my production to a halt.

I ideally need a method that works time and time again with excellent results that can be done off the cuff when its needed.
 

Offline .o:0|O|0:o.

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Re: Board Development and SMD Soldering
« Reply #3 on: November 06, 2010, 11:13:10 pm »
I have tried the whole laser jet transfer method (muratic acid & hydro prox). This did not work probably due to the laser printer (could only accomplish very large...nothing small)

Many people have a lot of success with this method. If you believe the printer is the problem, take a USB stick to a printshop or an office printer and see if that helps. If it does then get a better printer or get a library membership.

Otherwise, if money isn't a problem, you can get an express service from a board manufacturer or you could buy a router.

.o:0|O|0:o.
 

Offline GeoffS

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Re: Board Development and SMD Soldering
« Reply #4 on: November 07, 2010, 01:07:52 am »
A lot of people have reported success using the PulsarProFX product.
It's for laser printer though, not inkjets.
There's a step by step tutorial here including one of hacking a laminator to print to the PCB.

If you're of a mechanical bent, then you could try hacking an inkjet printer to print to PCBs directly.  Of course doing this will leave you no time to play electronics.  ;)
« Last Edit: November 07, 2010, 01:10:52 am by GeoffS »
 

Offline sonicj

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Re: Board Development and SMD Soldering
« Reply #5 on: November 07, 2010, 01:29:28 am »
smd breakout boards are the most practical solution i've found for the moment. solder the chip to the board and populate the pins and the chip is ready to be dropped into a solderless breadboard, perfboard, or self-etched board with with larger pin pitch.

i get mine from iteadstudio.com as this is the cheapest i've found. i think they are listed under the openpcb section which isn't working at the moment.
-sj
 

Offline GeoffS

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Re: Board Development and SMD Soldering
« Reply #6 on: November 07, 2010, 01:36:49 am »
Futurlec are another  source of breakout boards for various SOIC and QFP packages.

While I've bought components from Futurlec, I've never actually used these particular products
 

Offline Murphy

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Re: Board Development and SMD Soldering
« Reply #7 on: November 07, 2010, 09:43:45 am »
I've also had no luck with toner transfer, always a crappy transfer.

But I want to try another method someday...

http://ultrakeet.com.au/index.php?id=38

Check out the articles down toward the bottom of this page. I found them interesting.
 

Offline cybergibbons

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Re: Board Development and SMD Soldering
« Reply #8 on: November 07, 2010, 06:26:59 pm »
I'm finding drag soldering on decent boards is very easy. It's actually the discretes that are more of a challenge really.
 

Offline TheDirty

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Re: Board Development and SMD Soldering
« Reply #9 on: November 08, 2010, 03:27:37 am »
Toner transfer has worked great for me.  HP printer helps.  If it's not working for you, you should probably try the photo method then.  There's lots of tutorials on it.  It's easier to get reproducible results, because there's less variables in it.

There's not much you can't do with a regular iron.  Even QFN's can be done with an iron if you have enough pad material to put an iron to.
Mark Higgins
 

Offline terriea

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Re: Board Development and SMD Soldering
« Reply #10 on: February 26, 2011, 09:37:49 pm »
I'm jumping on the thread as I have beginner questions on SMD soldering. I only have a regular equipment for DIP soldering (soldering iron, solder wire) and I'm going to try SMD. Seems there are two main technics:
- Using a solering paste that retacts on the component pin. Can be used with a hoven with controlled heat.
- Using flux and a small amound of soldering with an iron.

I don't think i'll go for the paste as I don't intent to get a dedicated hoven for soldering. If i can use my existing soldering iron it would be nice. I'm thinking about the flux solution. But what is the adventages/inconvenients of different flux (Pen/Syringe from what I saw). What would you recoment for someone who will solder only just a few small boards a year ?
And how about flux remover ? For which kind of usage do we need a flux remover ? Is that a must-have or is it possible to go without it ?

Last question. I designed a boad for a small for a project with SMD, I choose the component size without really understanding (focusing on farad values). I received the components and realized how 0402 package were small. Does anyone have any advice for soldering such small devices ?

Thanks.
 

Offline Chasm

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Re: Board Development and SMD Soldering
« Reply #11 on: February 26, 2011, 09:54:45 pm »
0402 is small.

There are a few youtube videos about soldering 0402. Take a look at them, you will discover yourself wich ones are good really fast.

I have avoided 0402 so far.
Good tweezers and a loupe -preferably on a boom- seem to be indicated.
 

Offline am2pgs

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Re: Board Development and SMD Soldering
« Reply #12 on: February 26, 2011, 10:45:10 pm »
I have been using the toner transfer method with an air regenerated cupric chloride etchant tank with great success for two years now. The results are consistant and can produce PCBs within a couple of hours, once you have the setup. I can consistently produce pcbs with 8 thou tracks, and with 0.5 mm pitch ICs.

I recommend the following setup:

HP laserjet 2200 series toners work great and they are ~cheap to buy second hand from Ebay, a little big though
A good laminator which has double heated roller and can take 1.6 mm FR4 (I use swordfish professional laminators)
glossy magazine paper to print your artwork on
and finally a cupric chloride etch tank (you can make it yourself and you never have to throw away the solution) - great : see http://members.optusnet.com.au/eseychell/PCB/etching_CuCl/index.html

As for soldering:
it is amazing what you can do with a good soldering iron, some practice and a good digital zoom camera.

 

Offline Psi

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Re: Board Development and SMD Soldering
« Reply #13 on: February 27, 2011, 01:01:58 am »
I've had execellent results with "press-n-peal blue" pcb transfer paper.  
It's a blue sheet that you print on using a laser printer and then iron onto your circuit board.

It can take a few attempts to get the hang of it but ive done 100pin TQFP's with it

Tips
- Scrub your bare copper board with cream cleaner (the kind that feels like sand) until you get the marks off, then clean with meths to get every last spec of dirt off it. pnp-blue doesnt work very well if your copper board is dirty or has finger prints on it.
- If you have the printer set really dark it puts lots of toner on and then when you iron it all the toner spreads out making your tracks/pads bigger than they're supposed to be. You will have to play around to see what darkness setting works best for you.
- Let it cool down before pealing off the press-n-peal, i put it in cold water
- If you set your pcb program to print the holes in any throughhole pads this hole gets etched and then copper gap provides a guide for the drill bit when you drill it.

Before i found press-n-peel blue i tried the glossy photo paper method but never got it to work.

If you're in Aus/NZ you can buy press-n-peal from jaycar.
Another similar product is called "Toner Transfer System (TTS) Transfer Paper" made by Pulsar
It's supposed to be good but i've never used that one, digikey wont ship it to NZ.
« Last Edit: March 01, 2011, 11:42:03 pm by Psi »
Greek letter 'Psi' (not Pounds per Square Inch)
 

Offline disasm

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Re: Board Development and SMD Soldering
« Reply #14 on: March 01, 2011, 02:47:49 pm »
Ditto on how amazing PNP Blue is. And for the size of boards I tend to make, 10 sheets is a lifetime supply! I find the old HP Laserjets (LaserJet 4, 2200, etc...) work best. Make sure you have your toner density at the highest sending. In regards to the OP, you mentioned you could only do big things with laser printers. All you need to do is print your circuit first on regular paper. then cut out a small piece of PNP blue and place over the printed part. Adhere a piece of tape to the top of the PNP blue, and place the paper back in the printer. Print again and you should have a nice toner transfer ready to go. For the actual transfer, your best options are hacking a laminator, using an iron, or ripping apart an old laser printer, hooking the fuser up to an independent power supply and running it through that. For etching, a small aquarium tank works wonders add a bubbler/heater and you can etch a board in less than 10 minutes!

As for the SMT soldering, I haven't gotten that far yet. I tend to use mostly DIP packaging, but now that I'm thinking of adding a WIZNET ethernet chip to my PIC, I might have to start looking at it. I'm trying to convince the wife to let me buy this right now:

http://www.amazon.com/dp/B000HDG0AO?tag=biobugorg-20&camp=14573&creative=327641&linkCode=as1&creativeASIN=B000HDG0AO&adid=0NS7DMA73E7HNZ2Y09DC&

It has nice reviews, and since I don't even have a soldering iron at home greater than 30 W (do all my soldering in the lab at the University), it looks like an ideal product based on it's reviews.

Sam
 

Offline Psi

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Re: Board Development and SMD Soldering
« Reply #15 on: March 01, 2011, 11:50:34 pm »
I'm trying to convince the wife to let me buy this right now:

http://www.amazon.com/dp/B000HDG0AO?tag=biobugorg-20&camp=14573&creative=327641&linkCode=as1&creativeASIN=B000HDG0AO&adid=0NS7DMA73E7HNZ2Y09DC&

I have that rework station, it's nice. It takes a while to get used to the iron though, as it has a fume extractor tube on the side which makes it an odd shape. I use it mostly for smt rework, i don't use the iron part much as i have a seporate soldering station.

Two tips for that rework station,
- Mine came with two filters inside the bit where the fume extractor hose connects to the unit. Its supposed to have one filter + spares not two in at once. With two jammed in there it gets blocked really easy, took me a while to work out what was happening.
- Make sure you remove the red screw underneith, it's to hold the rubber mounted air pump from banging around during shipping. It needs to be removed before you run the unit. (It says this on the box)
« Last Edit: March 01, 2011, 11:52:15 pm by Psi »
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Online EEVblog

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Re: Board Development and SMD Soldering
« Reply #16 on: March 02, 2011, 12:00:00 am »
So what are your opinions? Hot Air, Hot Plate, Toaster Ovens, Enchant Tanks, Photo Resist, Light Boxes, etc.
What methods have you found easiest and reasonably priced to build a great looking board from something like Eagle and then what methods worked best to place SMD components on said board?

I simply use a soldering iron with 0.45mm solder. Parts down to 0603 in size no problems with the naked eye. 0402 and 0.5mm pitch IC's I prefer to solder under a microscope.
A hot air machine might come in handy for rework, but by no means necessary.

Get your boards professionally manufactured by someone like PCBcart or some of the cheaper alternatives. Don't mess around making your own boards.

The only thing you'd need a toaster oven for is BGA's, and quite frankly you are better off avoiding them unless absolutely necessary.

Dave.
 

Offline mikeselectricstuff

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Re: Board Development and SMD Soldering
« Reply #17 on: March 02, 2011, 12:28:47 am »

The only thing you'd need a toaster oven for is BGA's, and quite frankly you are better off avoiding them unless absolutely necessary.

Dave.
Toaster ovens are very cheap - you really should try one Dave. Hand-pasting with an air-operated syringe and toasting is quicker once you get over a few dozen parts on a board, and it ends up looking neater than hand-soldering. If you're doing a handful of boards, a cheap plastic stencil +toaster is WAY quicker.
Once you get the hang of getting the paste blob size right, 0402's are no harder than 0603's - just need to be a little more careful with placement to avoid tombstoning.

For PCBs I'd reccommend the old fashioned UV photo method, artwork laser-printed on tracing paper, and use silicate developer, NOT sodium hydroxide.
The fiddliness is significantly less if you have the space to have an etch tank set up somewhere permanently. However if you're getting into higher density SMD stuff the usefulness of homemade PCBs diminishes due to not being able to through-plate,and lack of solder resist.   
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Offline JoeBean

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Re: Board Development and SMD Soldering
« Reply #18 on: March 02, 2011, 05:18:34 pm »
Routers were only mentioned in passing once so far - is it that uncommon here?  I come from a machining background and have mills available that I've used to route PCB's in the past (though my electronics experience is modest compared to most here), and cheap routers for PCB milling are a popular topic over on cnczone, so I would have thought them more popular here.

An old cheap PC, some MDF, a few steppers, an RC motor for a spindle, some driver circuits and some modest linear motion components (commercial or DIY) and you've got a cheap PCB router that can be quite accurate.  The more speed or travel you want the more the price goes up, but for basics it's not too bad.  I would have thought it would be much more popular.
 

Offline mikeselectricstuff

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Re: Board Development and SMD Soldering
« Reply #19 on: March 02, 2011, 06:02:36 pm »
Routers were only mentioned in passing once so far - is it that uncommon here?  I come from a machining background and have mills available that I've used to route PCB's in the past (though my electronics experience is modest compared to most here), and cheap routers for PCB milling are a popular topic over on cnczone, so I would have thought them more popular here.

An old cheap PC, some MDF, a few steppers, an RC motor for a spindle, some driver circuits and some modest linear motion components (commercial or DIY) and you've got a cheap PCB router that can be quite accurate.  The more speed or travel you want the more the price goes up, but for basics it's not too bad.  I would have thought it would be much more popular.
Good PCB milling is pretty hard in practice - you need the accuracy to take off a 35 micron copper layer from a potentially warped board without chewing much of the base material or missing. Photo-etching is much easier and cheaper.
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Offline JoeBean

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Re: Board Development and SMD Soldering
« Reply #20 on: March 02, 2011, 09:18:43 pm »
Good PCB milling is pretty hard in practice - you need the accuracy to take off a 35 micron copper layer from a potentially warped board without chewing much of the base material or missing. Photo-etching is much easier and cheaper.
It's not too hard - the board just has to be held flat, which isn't difficult.  Unless the manufacturer's QC is out of whack, in which case you could get another supplier.

As you mention the copper layer on 1 oz boards is 35 microns, or about .0014" for Americans, which is not that small, and reliably maintaining Z depth isn't that hard to achieve, even without super expensive machining equipment. 

I'm not saying there's nothing to it but there are lots of people building routers for this purpose, of various speeds & accuracies, with fine results.  The key is careful design.   Maybe it's mostly ME types who are interested in EE, and not so much the other way around?  I don't know...
 


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